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Views of local agri-food and environment sectors crucial for Brexit – McIlveen and Hamilton

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The views of the local agri-food and environment sectors will play a crucial role in developing Northern Ireland’s negotiating position on Brexit.

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen and Economy Minister Simon Hamilton have established a Brexit Consultative Committee to provide a means of engaging closely with key sectoral representatives. The first meeting of the Committee was chaired by both Ministers in Belfast today.

Speaking after she opened the meeting, Miss McIlveen said: “The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union presents significant opportunities, and challenges, for the local agri-food, fisheries and environmental sectors. It is therefore hugely important that we establish close two-way communications between Government and industry representatives so that views and analysis are shared and taken account of as we develop our policy programme and negotiating position.

“Since taking office and throughout the summer, through a series of visits and events, I have reached out to and engaged constructively with the agri-food, fisheries and environment sectors; this new Committee formalises and builds on that initial contact.

“The Committee brings together organisations that are at the forefront of Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector and international trade, as well as representatives from the environmental sector. The Committee will be a forum for open and frank discussion and I want to encourage those involved to provide me with clear advice and feedback on the needs and concerns of their sectors.”

Comprising representatives from a range of agri-food bodies, as well as farming unions, trade bodies and environmental stakeholders, the Committee will be briefed on the evolving Brexit policy agenda and invited to offer views and advice.

DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen added: “The devolved administrations need to occupy a central role in the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU. I have already held meetings with George Eustace of Defra and my Welsh counterpart Lesley Griffiths, as well as with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire and Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis, and also with the Irish Republic’s Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and with European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan. I intend to maintain and build upon these contacts in the coming months.

“As we develop a new suite of policies that best suit Northern Ireland’s needs, this Committee will help ensure that the local agri-food, fisheries and environmental sectors are properly represented and I look forward to working with the bodies represented on that basis.”

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: “The agri-food sector is an important and growing part of our economy. That is why we have established this Committee to ensure we have an open forum through which to gain industry insight to ensure our particular circumstances, which will be different in terms of agriculture to the rest of the UK, are represented in the negotiations to the leave the European Union.

“A new era is beginning for the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland must be ready to seize the opportunities this presents. Engagement with all businesses sectors and representative bodies will continue on an ongoing basis including through Invest Northern Ireland to ensure we are best able to represent the interests of the local economy. Minister McIlveen and I are determined to secure a settlement which supports our objective of making Northern Ireland a globally competitive economy.”

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